The one time Simran cried
Main accused in 2012 Arun Tikku murder, Simran Sood became friends with journalist Jigna Vora in jail. In a book about her time at Barrack No 5, Vora talks of the young starlet behind a crime that caught the city's imagination
Simran received a lot of attention in jail due to the high-profile nature of her case. She also started spending a lot of time with me. Jaya Chheda could not accept this, and tried her best to cause a rift between us. Simran was unable to get used to the jail food. Since I had received permission through a court order to be sent home-cooked food, I suggested to Simran that she could try getting one too. Her lawyer tried many times, but the court never allowed Simran the requisite permission.
Simran confided to me that she had been dating a top stockbroker from Mumbai before her arrest. Her lavish lifestyle involved partying and clubbing every single night. She would try designer clothes for hours before finalizing her look each evening, a stark contrast to her life now, when she had only two pairs of clothes. She fondly remembered the new year bash that her stockbroker boyfriend had thrown on a yacht in Goa.
'He booked the entire yacht for me,' she said.
'Did he ever come to meet you when you were in police custody?'
'No,' she said. 'But I'm sure he will visit me here.'
I merely laughed from my own experience and asked her not to expect too much from friends.
'He is a Gujarati,' she said. Then she told me his name, and asked if there was any chance I might be related to him.
'No,' I said.
'Good,' she replied. 'Because his mother is a bitch. A control freak!'
I laughed aloud at that. Simran also mentioned that she used to go shopping to Bangkok every weekend with a coterie of socialites. None of them had bothered to check on her after her arrest. She said she used to also meet Santosh Shetty, Chhota Rajan's associate, in Bangkok. Shetty was extradited to India in 2011. I would often find him sitting in the same vehicles during our court visits.
According to the police, Vijay Palande and Simran were husband and wife, but Simran always insisted that Vijay was like a brother to her. Other inmates joked about this.
'Oh, yes,' Usha Maa quipped. 'During the day he is your brother, and at night he is your lover!'
I offered some of my kurtas to Simran since she had so few clothes, and we were pretty much the same height. She politely refused because her father was due to visit her from Delhi, where her family lived. While working in Bollywood, Simran had lived alone in Mumbai in a posh locality. Her accent had the forced delicateness of a film star. She would lament about her situation, but I never saw her crying in jail.
Simran had never used an Indian toilet in her life before, but now she was sharing a toilet with forty other women. Earlier, she drank nothing but mineral water, but now she had to drink from dirty taps. Her parties would begin at 12.30 am and end at 5.30 am. But in Byculla Jail, she had to wake up at 5.30 am and attend a headcount.
The way she spoke about her life, Simran had lived in a way that most of us cannot even dream of. Simran often joked that once we were released, we would be the perfect candidates for Bigg Boss. And she had a plan to go to Goa too. I had never visited Goa before, so I would enthusiastically agree with her. 'We'll have so much fun, it will be once in a lifetime', she would say.
Simran missed her stockbroker boyfriend a lot. During each court visit, she was hopeful that he would turn up to meet her, but each time she would return in the evening with a dejected look on her face. I could relate to this situation completely since so many of the people I had considered my trusted friends had also forsaken me. But Simran still hoped that her lover would turn up to see her the next time. I did not have the heart to burst her bubble of hope. Her brother and father, and her lawyer would often visit her though.
In May, Jaya Chheda started guiding Simran and told her she was ready to help her if Simran stopped talking to me. However, Simran would wait for Jaya Chheda to leave for her court date and rush to my barrack and chat with me.
Simran would often go through the book that was delivered to Jaya every day. Jaya would also get clothes from Westside for her. I never had the courage to tell Simran that Jaya used most inmates like dolls, and she would break her favourite toys as soon as she got bored of them. In Simran's case, that happened rather soon. Late one night, Jaya instigated a fight between an African inmate and Simran. The African inmate slapped Simran hard and her cheeks turned red.
The entire jail was stunned. To Simran's credit, not even such a hard slap could make her cry. The lady constables arrived and shifted Simran to Circle 2. After that, I would only meet Simran during doctor visits. She confessed that she missed talking to me. I advised her to keep to herself and not get over-friendly with anyone.
Simran secured bail a few months after me. She made a great effort to keep in touch. Once, I took my son to the KFC at Linking Road, Bandra, and he was enjoying his food when someone called my name aloud. I turned around and saw Simran running towards me. She hugged me tightly. 'You supported me during the worst phase of my life,' she said, and started weeping. That was the only time I saw her cry.
Excerpted with permission from Behind bars in Byculla by Jigna Vora, published by Penguin Random House India
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